Should HDDs be wiped out periodically to refresh them, using Darik's Boot and Nuke for example or just when extremely needed? In other words, do programs like DBAN act like fresheners or should their use be kept at a minimum, only when needed?
I have an external laptop disk that I want to put in the place of my dying disk and wonder if I should use DBAN to make a fresh start despite the long time it takes or just 'clean' it using disk partition in cmd and perhaps chkdsk too before Windows installation. Thank you.
Curious, where you got the idea HD's can actually be "refreshed"? Personally, I use/recommend SpinRite which might be the drive tool you're looking for...and resolve your "bit rot" issue(s). HOW does SpinRite work?
This varies slightly depending on drive technologies, but writing to storage devices either has no significant effect, or may have a slight detrimental effect (mostly wear and tear, especially for SSDs/SSHDs). While this this might actually be desirable in some circumstances, e.g. as a periodic fitness test, there are better ways of achieving the same effect.
Nuking the disk and reinstalling an updated image (that is: image, nuke, restore) has the only effect of increasing wear and tear, and incidentally testing (most of) the disk itself. The latter can be done faster, more easily and more thoroughly using SMART monitoring tools.
Modern hard disks in good condition do not significantly suffer from surface demagnetising, and if they do, you have other and more urgent problems to tackle than refreshing the hard disk, which would only temporarily assuage the symptoms. To monitor this kind of situation you use the SMART "full" or "extensive" test, which effectively reads the whole disk, rewrites where necessary, and notifies of "unstable" sectors. In most cases this also "remaps" unreliable sectors so that a new reliable sector with the old content is made transparently available to the system. You need to keep track of the SMART parameters to know when the disk is in need of replacement.
If you're referring to a backup and full restore, this has the only effect of defragmenting the disk, and can be therefore done more quickly and just as effectively with the standard defragmentation tool (except perhaps when the disk is more than 90% full; in that case, a backup/restore might take four or five hours, and a full defragment a couple of days. Been there, done that. But during the defragment the system is reasonably useable, during restore it is not, so it much depends on whether you can afford the downtime).
If you're talking of a reinstallation, it's a very different matter and is usually markedly beneficial to performances, reducing registry clutter and ensuring there are as few software conflicts as possible (this is becoming less and less necessary, as operating systems become better at keeping track of conflicts. Of course, the less software you install/uninstall, the less need you have of straightening out the system). This can also be done more quickly by keeping a full restore image taken just after reinstallation of the OS and all attendant software. Unfortunately, after doing this it's usually necessary to also perform all system updates issued since the image was first taken. You don't do any of this with DBAN though, as far as I know.